Scots ex-gambling addict who blew £100k to sleep rough for Afghan refugee kids

An ex-gambling addict, who blew £100,000 in four years, is sleeping rough to raise money for a family who fled for their lives from terror-ridden Afghanistan.

We told how Paul Pettigrew got hooked on gambling aged 18. For the next four years he racked up debts to betting sites, pay-day loan firms and loved ones – with the most owed at one time being £28,000.

The 25-year-old from Port Glasgow, Inverclyde broke his silence by speaking to the Daily Record in October 2020.

Since then the success of Paul’s prevention service, Gamtalk, has sky-rocketed, having reached thousands of schoolkids and young footballers through inspiring presentations and online interaction.

With backing from footie stars Laurence Shankland and Lewis Morgan, Paul is determined to use his platform for good, with his latest mission being to help the Zamirs; an Afghan refugee family.

Brave Paul aims to sleep rough for five nights to raise money for the Zamirs next month.

The family, including six-year-old twins, Bebe and Mohammed, landed in Glasgow with only the clothes on their backs after narrowly escaping a suicide bomber just a few weeks ago.

Paul Pettigrew became a gambling addict when he failed to make it as a pro-footballer

Paul was touched by their story, shared on social media, and decided to do his bit.

He told the Record: “I contacted their lawyer who arranged a meeting with me and some of the family in Glasgow on Monday.

“When I heard their story I knew I had to help.

“The dad told me about the Taliban arriving in the village next to theirs, they grabbed the kids and ran. They got to one camp but a suicide bomber attacked it, 200 people were killed all around them.

Scots ex-gambling addict who blew £100k to sleep rough for Afghan refugee kids
Paul Pettigrew has set up a Instagram to help youngsters understand gambling addiction

“Nine family members made it on one of those planes filled with people and got to Glasgow, where one relative has already been living for 10 years.

“It’s so far removed from what we know, we can’t even begin to understand what they’ve seen and witnessed, it’s terrible.

“When I met Bebe and Mohammed they shook my hand and smiled, you could tell they were so confused as to why they were here. I explained that I wanted to help and any funds raised would get to them via their lawyer.”

From October 4 to 9, Paul will sleep rough in Ayr, Glasgow, Dundee, Edinburgh and Paisley. He launched a GoFundMe page on Monday and over £800 has been donated in less than 24 hours. Money raised will go towards shelter to ensure all nine family members are kept together, as well as vital food and toiletries.

Scots ex-gambling addict who blew £100k to sleep rough for Afghan refugee kids
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“I put a target of £5,000 but to be honest, any amount is appreciated and will help this family in some way,” Paul said.

“I slept rough to raise money for addiction charities last year so have a bit of practice, but it will be cold out there. People have been really generous and supportive with Gamtalk as well as the fundraising, it’s amazing and I’m so grateful.”

Paul’s motivation to do good came in recovery from his truly destructive gambling issues.

He previously told the Record: “I was going to the bookies twice a day, seven days a week and gambling on my phone constantly. I was robbing Peter to pay Paul; begging one relative for money, to keep another friend quiet.

Scots ex-gambling addict who blew £100k to sleep rough for Afghan refugee kids
Young footballers listen as Paul Pettigrew lays bare his previous gambling addiction.

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“I damaged relationships and put my family through so much. If it wasn’t for loved ones being supportive, and able to help get me out of debt in late 2017, I would be living on the streets. I’d have nothing.”

Paul doesn’t blame anyone for his addiction, but the keen footballer admits his self-esteem was knocked after being released from Greenock Morton’s pro-youth squad aged 17.

“Gambling was not part of my family at all,” he added.

“Before, gambling addiction was seen as something that affected older men. But now, young people can access it online. I had a casino on my phone 24 hours a day.”

Scots ex-gambling addict who blew £100k to sleep rough for Afghan refugee kids
Paul Pettigrew speaking to youth squads at Aberdeen FC

Celtic, Aberdeen, Dundee United and Hibernian footballs clubs have all hosted Gamtalk in the last year, as well as 12 secondary schools stretching from South Ayrshire, across to Edinburgh and as far north as Dundee.

Around 600 people have messaged the Gamtalk Instagram page seeking advice on gambling addiction.

“The more people I can reach the better,” he added.

“I’d love to get into every council area and I’m in talks to hopefully start age-appropriate presentations in primary schools.

“Online gambling is huge yet we aren’t told about the dangers in school, like with drugs and alcohol. I’ve been to college or uni four different times, but gambling stopped me from getting anywhere with it. I knew loads of guys who’d head straight from lectures to the bookies.

“I’m not saying don’t do it, but it’s like drink, everything in moderation.”

Follow Gamtalk on Instagram for more information or donate via the official GoFundMe page.

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